Chris Thomas Bound To The Ocean Self Release
Debut release from a singer songwriter who lives in Devon, England. There is a very airy, California feel to these songs and the production by Barney Dine at Ocean Studios, UK is very bright and filled with catchy arrangements and melody lines. The musicians are excellent although the liner notes don’t seem to credit everyone who played on the project. I hear a banjo in the mix with no credits and the backing vocals, credited to Alex Hart seem too expansive for just a single voice. I guess that the programming of Barney Dine counts for a lot of the overall feel to the songs.
There is a Jack Johnston groove to both the opening and closing tracks, Whenever I Sing Georgia and Wake Up Smiling. The light Blues shuffle of Heart Is Broke, with a cool piano break (Martin Poole) and twin guitar line, is reminiscent of JJ Cale. The song arrangements and performance display a sense of effortless technique which is testament to just how enjoyable the listening experience is.
There are a number of songs that celebrate the bond that love brings and Turning Stones, So Long, Travelling Away and If Not You, bear testament that love conquers all. There is a song for his daughter, Gwendolyn Rose and another that is an ode to a fisherman, Back Before The Storm. All told, a very pleasant release with some fine playing to brighten up your day.
Arkansas Dave Self Titled Self Release
This debut from Arkansas Dave is certainly not lacking in either confidence or talent. Coming out of the traps like a full-on rock experience, Bad At Being Good is an assault on the senses with full band attack and a horn section that really put the boot in. The second song, On My Way, is a tour de force of big brass blues and lays down a marker for the rest of the project.
Jamie Evans co-produces with Arkansas Dave and his versatility as a producer, writer, session player, multi-instrumentalist and musical director is very evident. Couple this with the talents of Arkansas Dave, also a multi-instrumentalist and you get an idea of the direction here. The presence of the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, the Swampers, adds great magic and muscle to the song arrangements. There have been a few different members over the years, but the quality of the Swampers never fades and having the talent of Will McFarlane on guitars, Clayton Ivey on keyboards and Bob Wray on bass, coupled with the superb horn arrangements of Jim Horn and Charles Rose, leads to the inevitable conclusion that employing real class always brings its own reward. The backing tracks were all recorded at Fame Studios and Arkansas Dave completed the vocals at Arlyn Studios in Austin, Texas.
Bad Water has a compelling groove and Chocolate Jesus channels a swampy laid-back, slow jazz groove, reminiscent of heady New Orleans bar room nights. The Wheel and Rest Of My Days shake things up a bit with a change of direction into more 60’s Rock based arrangements, that border on dreamy loose playing and subtle soul styling. Jubilee is a slow burn with Hammond B3 to the fore and great sweeping choral melody. It all makes for a dramatic listen, thirteen tracks to enjoy and not a dud among them.
Dan Israel You’re Free Self Release
This artist has been releasing albums since the 1990’s and he brings a sound that falls largely into the area of Roots-Rock. He states that formative influences included Bob Dylan and Tom Petty but there is little evidence of either across the eleven tracks here.
The violin playing of Jillian Rae on Back To You and Make This Life Mine is a counterpoint to the guitar driven production and adds a different colour to what would be standard commercial radio friendly songs. The opening tracks, Gets You Through It and You’re Free, are good examples of this and the bright and breezy production is reminiscent of The Cars. With a big sound on most of the tunes, it is good that a few numbers such as Stay On The Run and the instrumental closer, Porch Storm, also leave breathing space for some contemplation. Feeling Better and If I Didn’t Have You are more personal songs and the liner notes speak of some challenges and issues faced, plus the fact that Israel has given up a day job after 21 years of juggling career with his urge to be a full-time musician.
Production is by Dan Israel, together with Rich Mattson and David J Russ; both of whom play in the studio band. This trio perform with a number of instruments; Dan Israel (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, lead vocals), David J. Russ (drums, bass, piano, lap steel, keyboards, cello, percussion, backing vocals) and Rich Mattson (electric guitar, guitar solos, bass, piano). They are joined by quite a supporting line-up that includes Jillian Rae (violin), Paul Odegaard (trumpet) Dave Hill (drums), Randy Casey (slide guitar and baritone guitar), Mike Lane (bass), James Tyler O'Neill (keyboards, Fender Rhodes), Peter J. Sands (Hammond organ), Katie Gearty & Jenny Russ (backing vocals).
Steve Hill The One Man Blues Rock Band No Label
Steve Hill certainly lives up to the title of this new release with an impressive concert performance. This one-man band plays Blues Rock with complete conviction on guitar, harmonica, drums, percussion and vocals. There are 14 tracks, taken mainly from his Solo Recordings volume 1, 2 & 3. Just to prove that he is not all studio techniques and overdubs, Steve Hill shows that he can do it all in the naked light of a live performance.
Juggling these various instruments in a feat of impressive dexterity, his performance is something to behold. He never drops a beat, whether embarking on a serious guitar solo, a bluesy harmonica riff or jumping between bass drum, snare drum, hi-hats or tambourine. There are out n’ out Blues Rock workouts (Rhythm All Over, Still Got It Bad, Dangerous) and slow burn tracks (Tough Luck, Out Of Phase, Nothing New). Hardly room for rest as we push on through with the next track. The stand out is a powerhouse delivery of musical technique on The Ballad Of Johnny Wabo and the set also includes a stirring cover of Voodoo Child.
Steve Future 7 Cities Blue Future
Steve Future has been active since the early 1980’s and is based in Sweden. He delivers a Blues Rock sound and some previous albums, Four Cities, It Takes Time and The Nine Others, are combined here on an 18-track release.
Recording took place at various locations; Abbey Road, London/Nashville/Stockholm/New Orleans/Berlin and the penthouse of Alicia Keys in New York, among them. The time period spans 2014 to 2018 and as a result, the results are a varied bag across so many locations and years.
It doesn’t always work but there are some nice gems to be unearthed, like the acoustic groove of Black Water and the electric attack of Rat Poison, with fine harmonica parts by Steve and tasty organ by John Austin. There are any number of musicians across the tracks here but the overall guidance and direction of Steve Future is ever-present. The vocals can be a bit of an acquired taste but the closer, Blue Volvo (Berlin) rocks like a - well, fast car… as it drives the project towards the edge of a cliff…!
Jim Lauderdale Time Flies Yep Roc
Shapeshifter…The chameleon of Country music is at it again. The hat on the cover artwork is somewhat appropriate, given the number of times this superbly talented artist has donned different hats and as many musical genres, when exploring influences from different strands of his colourful career.
There are in the region of 30 releases from Jim Lauderdale that cover solo and collaborative work; with all kinds of country, from old time to bluegrass and honky-tonk to ballads. The interesting thing is that nobody has taken the opportunity to put together a greatest track compilation – now there would be a sure-fire winner and a great project to get involved with…
On this new release the songs visit a number of his favourite sources with the country blues of When I Held The Cards In My Hand, to the rockabilly of Wearing Out Your Cool, and the old time swing of Wild On Me Fast, to the honky tonk of Where The Cars Go By So Fast.
The title track finds a more reflective mood and If The World’s Still Here Tomorrow follows a similar vein. The fiddle playing of Lillie Mae Rische is featured on only one track, Where The Cars Go By So Fast, which is something of a shame and she provides stellar backing vocals throughout, along with husband Frank Rische. While You’re Hoping has a light jazz groove whereas Slow As Molasses could be a contender for inclusion on the soundtrack of a future Disney movie.
As always, the studio musicians are top drawer with some great players such as Kenny Vaughan, Chris Scruggs, Jay Weaver, Craig Smith, and Tommy Hannum, to name but a few… Of the eleven tracks, three are co-writes and the production by Lauderdale & Jay Weaver is very engaging; shining with a clear sound and lots of space between the playing.
The entire project is proof of just what a fine singer Jim Lauderdale is and this is his strongest release in a number of years. The benefits from an attractive package design, courtesy of Stephen Averill, with fine photo images by Ronnie Norton and Scott Simmontachi cannot be underestimated and add to the overall impressive look of this project. A real keeper. The man has reignited his mojo.
Justin Saladino Band Bros Self Release
This young musician releases his debut album and it is quite an impressive statement. Based in Montreal, Justin Saladino displays a maturity in both his playing technique and song-writing, with all songs written by him, including one co-write. Leading from the front on guitars and vocals this musician certainly knows his way around a melody and a well-placed solo.
The production on this project is courtesy of Connor Seidel and the studio band is comprised of Gabriel Forget on bass, A.J. Aboud on drums, Felix Blackburn on guitar, Remi Comier on trumpet & flugelhorn, David Osei-Afrifa on keyboards, Beatrice Keeler on vocals and Seidel on percussion.
The sound is a mix of soulful blues on tracks like A Fool I’ll Stay, Peace With You and All You Ever Need, and a roots sound on folk based songs like Third Week Of June, Mama Said and Put The Hammer Down. The funky groove of Honey and Only You are very easy on the ear and I can see them fitting perfectly into the style of song that Bonnie Raitt selects for her records. Recommended.